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Charities urge changes to statutory guidance on exclusions and behaviour amid concerns over child criminal exploitation

A coalition of 12 children’s charities led by Just for Kids Law has urged Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to alter the statutory guidance on exclusions and guidance on behaviour to better protect children facing school exclusion from child criminal exploitation.

Signatories (see below) said excluding children from school can make them more vulnerable to exploitation and 80% of children in custody had been excluded from school.

They called on Mr Zahawi to change the guidance to give teachers better information on how to spot the warning signs and risk factors for exploitation, and to require headteachers and governing bodies to consider whether a child at risk of exclusion may be showing risk factors for exploitation as part of their decision to exclude.

Signatories said exploiters will often engineer a child’s exclusion, including coercing victims to carry drugs or weapons into school which will likely result in an exclusion.

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Children were more likely to be exposed to criminal exploitation outside mainstream school and exploiters played on children’s feelings of being rejected and unwanted by the education system.

The letter said: “A child who commits an offence because they are a victim of exploitation is rightly able to have those circumstances recognised as part of their defence in the criminal courts.

“Worryingly, there is no equivalent protection for children who face being excluded from school in the same circumstances, despite the lifelong consequences for the child.”

Louise King, director of policy and campaigns at Just for Kids Law said: “It’s crucial that, when headteachers are faced with the decision about whether to exclude a child, they take into consideration what might be happening in that child’s life, including the possibility that their behaviour is a result of child criminal exploitation. 

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

Mark Smulian

Signatories:

  • Just for Kids Law
  • Children’s Rights Alliance for England
  • Barnardo’s
  • Redthread
  • National Youth Agency
  • Alliance for Youth Justice
  • NSPCC             
  • ECPAT (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking)
  • The Adolescent and Children's Trust (TACT)
  • Law Centres Network
  • Communities Empowerment Network (CEN)
  • The Children’s Society

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